Today has been a funny day. Not funny ha-ha, but weird and thought provoking. Somehow the randomness of life came together like puzzle pieces fitting together. Let me explain.
Today is Australia Day. It's a divisive day...for some. There was a huge rally in Melbourne led by our indigenous peoples, who refer to it as Invasion Day or Survival Day. It warms my heart to see the swell of people at the rally, or using the hashtag online #changethedate. Having your national day of celebration on the anniversary of white colonialization is hurtful, thoughtless and stupid. It should be a day for everyone, including the traditional owners of this land. But enough about that...for the moment.
This morning as I sat on the couch eating breakfast, I scrolled through Facebook. There was a post by Toby Halligan referring to recent footage of Richard Spencer (alt-right nazi) being punched in the face by a passer by. Toby asked 'when, if ever, is it ok to use violence when you disagree with someone'? Now there was a number of opinions flying back and forth under this post. It got me thinking. Sure, we all relished at seeing Joffrey being poisoned and Ramsey Bolton having his face eaten off by his own dogs in Game of Thrones. Evil got it's comeuppance. But what about in the real world? Someone stated that there was no reasoning with Nazis such as Spencer. This conversation made me assess my own perspective.
I looked through Facebook memories. About six years ago I was at the zoo and took a photo of koalas - stating, 'well it is Australia Day after all'. A few years on I posted a Paul Kelly song, saying that I (like Catherine Deveny) felt more Melbournian than Australian. All the flag cape wearing racists had made me shudder at the sight of our own flag. I copped shit online for this from some people. Flash forward to last year. Peter and I were at the Invasion Day rally. I felt part of a crowd making a statement to support the traditional owners. I met lovely people in the crowd and had a great day. In a short scroll through my own history I saw how my thoughts had changed and developed.
I feel a bit like this about becoming vegan. I turned vegetarian at 14, much to may parents concern. About three years ago Peter suggested we go vegan. You see he had begun following animal rights sites online. It made me stop and consider many things I had never thought of before. Like how cows just don't keep producing milk by themselves (like all mammals it's tied up with feeding babies). As I read more I thought more. I opened my eyes to things previously never considered 'because that's how things have always been'. This was my moment of inconvenient truth.
A friend and I have chatted on and off for years about how you change people's perceptions. How do you stop the general population from believing the bile spewed by politicians, spreading fear and hate towards refugees, or opinion pieces about indigenous people's 'lifestyle choices' or not being black enough. How do you get people to think deeper about complex issues and change the way they see the world? Change the beliefs they have held for many years? Or get someone to open their eyes and see the world differently?
This afternoon we watched the movie Arrival. It is everything a sci-fi movie should be, if you want emotion rather than explosions. Twelve space ships arrive in various locations around the world. Amy Adams is a linguist charged with trying to decode the alien language. With the threat of these mysterious ships hanging over countries, humanity reacts for the most part how you expect - with fear and suspicion. But Amy communicates with the aliens and talks to the military about how words can be misinterpreted - a weapon can also mean a tool. The gift she receives is to understand. I'm trying not to give away spoilers, but lets just say we loved it.
On today of all days I took this as a sign. A message. How do you change people's minds? By listening and trying to understand. It may take time, but it is the only way to see something anew. Opening someone's eyes to compassion, empathy and understanding can be hard. You just have to hope that someone is willing to see. Ten years ago there were many things I didn't give a second thought about. But a combination of friends, different media sources and critical thinking has taken the blinkers off. I have the gift of trying to understand and maybe as importantly...caring.
Would this work on a Nazi? Probably not. But you do see stories occasionally of people doing a complete 180 degree turn around. Skinheads who saw through differences, changing their mindset. Or dairy farmers who became vegans. This proves change in perception is possible. You just need the gift of understanding.